Hired Hands are AI-controlled friendly characters that follow the Spelunker around the level, attacking enemies and collecting treasure for the player. They are found in Hired Hand Shops for sale or Coffins in the level.
They have all the same statistics and abilities as the player-controlled character but are clumsy and have sub-par intelligence, and as such, don't tend to survive for very long in dangerous environments. Any Spelunker found in a coffin will act as a Hired Hand as long as he/she lives.
Hired Hands are able to pick up gold, because of this, it's not recommended to keep them alive if you're trying to unlock the 'Low Scorer' achievement. They will also pick up any weapon and other items they come across, and have a habit of killing the Spelunker by accident if they get a hold of a dangerous item like the shotgun, and they will pick up and throw away bombs that are too close to them.
If a Hired Hand picks up an item, it will be added to the Journal if the player didn't have it already, and Tunnel Man won't take items from Hired Hands to unlock shortcuts. While not extremely useful, they are able to grab certain items that the Spelunker can't, like bomb bags, bomb boxes, and even the Udjat Eye. Additionally, Hired Hands can open the Big Chest if they walk over it with the Key in their hands.
Like other players, they won't take any damage from being hit with the whip, but will get stunned. They don't normally run during Adventure mode, but they are seen doing so very rarely.
When sacrificed on an Altar, They are worth 8 Favor Points stunned and 4 dead, thus making them a method of gaining extra favor.
They are the only way to carry more than one item between levels while playing solo, and are able to pick up certain items that the spelunker will collect on touch, making them somewhat useful. Also, if an area is too dangerous to go into, throw the hired hand in and wait for him to die/kill the monsters.
In the case the Spelunker is wanted by the Shopkeepers, they will automatically be 'free' and may attack the shopkeepers or leave the shop, this usually ends with them dying, but they sometimes can disarm shopkeepers and even kill them.
Hired Hands will regain back their health after going to the next level, it is unknown whether this is a bug or a feature.
- The unlockable Cyclops Spelunker is purchased from a Hired Hand shop located in the Black Market. He costs $10,000 and his name is Carl, with the action prompt reading "Bother Carl", instead of the usual "Buy (name)"; a reference to an interactive story book made by Spelunky's lead developer, Andy Hull, called What is bothering Carl?
- There are 26 different Hired Hands names: Atlas, Barca, Clovis, Dunder, Eirik, Fink, Grom, Ham, Ivan, Jax, Karl, Lurch, Manfred, Nurdle, Onyx, Perseus, Quincy, Rastan, Steve, Thundar, Ulrik, Voxel, Wolf, Xom, Yor, Zorgoth.
- Every letter of the English alphabet is used as the first letter of a hired hand's name.
- The name Eirik is a reference to the composer of Spelunky's soundtrack, Eirik Suhrke.
- The name Karl may be a reference to British radio personaity Karl Pilkington, who bears a noticable resemblance to the Hired Hand.
- If the player dies and revives with the ankh while a Hired Hand is with them, the Hired Hand will be duplicated, the duplicated Hired Hand may be with the player after reviving or will be invisible until exiting the level.
- During multiplayer, sometimes duplicated Hired Hands might disappear after one of the player's death or the other Hired Hand's death.
- Throwing a Hired Hand with the Pitcher's Mitt against a Loose Platform, Pushable Block, Crush Trap or any other block that can move will cause the Hired Hand to bounce back at a slower speed with the straight-line trajectory of the Pitcher's Mitt, the Hired Hand will be affected by gravity again if it hits a wall but can also be left floating in the air if it hits the corner of a block.
- This bug is not exclusive to Hired Hands, and works with Spelunkers in multiplayer too.
- Some Hired Hands participated in the Olympics and can jump about six blocks.